AS SEEN ON: Networks finalize fall lineups

by Leslie Adkins | 5/26/09 10:00pm

Three weeks ago, I wrote briefly about what NBC's fall television lineup will look like ("NBC reveals new pilots, returning programs," May 6). Now the rest of the results are in, as last week signaled the end of the "upfronts," when the networks announce the next season's lineups. After scrutinizing these announcements, it has become clear that some networks have perfected the formula for entertaining television. Others have less game than a 40-year-old virgin.

CBS is an apt pupil: Although NBC delivers all-star comedies, CBS continues its reign as the poster child of all-around desirable programming. Of all the networks, CBS has picked up the fewest new pilots, maintained the highest and most consistent viewership in the 18 to 49 age demographic (thanks to "Two and a Half Men" and "The Mentalist") and made the fewest adjustments to its previous programming schedule.

In a show of "Our network rocks, yours doesn't," CBS will pick up and resuscitate NBC's recent castoff "Medium." I predict the network will also gain past "Dharma and Greg" fans by picking up the Jenna Elfman pregnancy sitcom "Accidentally on Purpose."

Slow and steady wins second place: As I predicted, NBC saved its average-spy-guy series "Chuck" from a small screen death and renewed it for next season. And though "Medium" was not so lucky, it may actually be better off than the powerhouse that is CBS.

I'm counting on Joel McHale's new comedy "Community" to bring NBC some new viewers and perhaps, with the help of trusty standbys "30 Rock" and "The Office," lead NBC back to its comedy glory days of the 1990s.

Reclaiming the drama queen crown, however, seems less likely for NBC. The network's choice to pick up "V," a remake of a 1980s television series about alien lizards coming to Earth, seems desperate, and I doubt it will help NBC return to its glorious, special effects-free, dramatic heyday.

Apparently, ABC has forgotten the basics. God help the American Broadcasting Company. The network seems dead-set on canceling great shows and basing its future programming on risky pilots. First, tossing out "Samantha Who?" may be as poor a decision as the befuddling elevator scene in the "Grey's Anatomy" season finale. (By the way, both George and Izzie are signed on for the next season of "Grey's.") The sci-fi pilot "Flash Forward" seems ominous and contrived, though it may be able to take the place of "Lost," which begins its sixth and final season in early 2010.

Dear "Desperate Housewives" and "Ugly Betty:" ABC needs you now more than ever.

Interestingly enough, the most promising new programming will not appear on any of the networks above. The season's likely hits include FOX's show about high school chorus shenanigans, "Glee," and the CW's "Gossip Girl" spin-off "Lily," which provides a flashback into the youth of Serena van der Woodsen's mother.

Regardless, now that we know what's on the menu, all we can do is wait for the first course of offerings available this fall.